Hall of Fame trainer Mark Casse won the Grade 1 Summer Stakes three consecutive years from 2013-2015. Now, he sends Gretzky the Great out in search of his own hat trick in one of Woodbine’s two Grade 1 races Sunday.

Gretzky the Great-Summer Stakes
Gretzky the Great won last month’s Soaring Free Stakes to give his sire, Nyquist, his first progeny stakes winner. Gretzky the Great goes for his hat trick in Sunday’s Summer Stakes. (Image: Michael Burns)

The Grade 1 Summer Stakes sends seven 2-year-olds a mile on the suburban Toronto E.P. Taylor Turf Course. As a Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” event, the winner captures a berth in the Nov. 6 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf at Keeneland. The Summer Stakes’ sister race, the Grade 1 Natalma Stakes, sends 2-year-old fillies a mile. The winner gets a spot in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf.

This being Woodbine, you knew Casse would have a say in matters. He led Woodbine’s trainer standings a remarkable 14 times and owns 11 Sovereign Awards as Canada’s top trainer. The Sovereign Awards are equivalent to the Eclipse Awards in the US.

And this being the Summer Stakes, you knew Casse would figure somewhere, considering he’s won this race three times. The victories came with the conveniently named My Conquestadory, Conquest Typhoon and Conquest Daddyo.

Yes, There’s a Hockey Thread Running Through This Race

Along with 2/1 favorite Gretzky the Great, this time, Casse brings 8/1 Dolder Grand, an $800,000 Candy Ride progeny. The most expensive horse in the field gives Casse two of the seven hopefuls in the $200,000 (Cdn) race.

A Gretzky the Great win gives Casse his fourth Summer Stakes and his precocious juvenile his third consecutive win. Gretzky the Great broke his maiden by 4 ¼ lengths in his second start Aug. 2, then followed three weeks later with a neck victory in the Soaring Free Stakes.

Summer Stakes

Morning Line (Jockey)

  1. Download, 20/1 (Daisuke Fukumoto)
  2. Secret Potion, 3/1 (Rafael Hernandez)
  3. Ready to Repeat, 9/2 (Luis Contreras)
  4. Gretzky the Great, 2/1 (Kazushi Kimura)
  5. American Monarch, 15/1 (Justin Stein)
  6. Heat of the Night, 12/1 (Emma Wilson)
  7. Dolder Grand, 8/1 (Patrick Husbands)

Gretzky the Great’s sire is 2016 Kentucky Derby champion Nyquist, a horse named after former Detroit Red Wings and current Columbus Blue Jackets forward Gustav Nyquist. That name came from Nyquist’s owner, J. Paul Reddam, a Canadian native, Southern Californian businessman and huge Red Wings fan.

“He’s been great so far. He’s come to play each time and he’s run hard,” Casse told Woodbine.

Dolder Grand Discovers Rubbing is Racing

Dolder Grand hasn’t had the same easy path. He finished third in his debut last month, slogging through a troubled trip that began when Dolder Grand was bumped coming out of the gate.

“He reminds me a bit of War of Will,” Casse said, referring to his 2019 Preakness champion, who finished third in Saturday’s Grade 1 Woodbine Mile as the 2/1 favorite. “I was a little disappointed in his first start, but I can remember War of Will doing the exact same thing. When I ran War of Will first time out, I didn’t think he’d get beat and he finished third, beaten like five lengths.”

The Summer Stakes being a high-profile turf race, you know Chad Brown has to be somewhere. And here he is, with Secret Potion (3/1). The Into Mischief colt finished second in his Saratoga debut without the anti-bleeding drug Lasix. New York is one of several racing states forbidding the drug in 2-year-old races. But Lasix is legal in Canada and Secret Potion will have that potion for the Summer Stakes.

New York Groove Lends Itself to Summer Stakes Success

Juveniles making their previous start in New York won the last four Summer Stakes, culminating in Decorated Invader’s victory last year.

Gretzky the Great isn’t the only Derby-winning progeny in the proceedings. Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott seeks his Summer Stakes hat trick with American Monarch (5/2). The American Pharoah offspring won his Aug. 8 debut at Saratoga, capturing a 1 1/16-mile turf race by a half-length over Secret Potion.

Both American Monarch and Secret Potion are route-race tested, something Gretzky the Great can’t claim. He hasn’t gone past 6 ½ furlongs in any of his four races.

The pick: Secret Potion. Route-tested, Lasix-enhanced and Brown-trained. That’s a pretty good hat trick right there. This is the spot for him to shine.